Friday, May 24, 2013

... and Then a Car Caught Fire

So, I’m going to open this post by apologizing for not posting yesterday. Sorry about the 24 hour delay! I know it’s super annoying for me when I’m looking forwards to an update on a blog I follow, and then the day comes, and midnight passes, and nothing is posted. Now I’m going to tell you that I have a legitimate reason for not posting, and that it legitimately involves things that caught fire.
As I was coming home from the Place de la Comedie on the tram yesterday, all of a sudden the tram stopped in a very random spot. Calm thing that I am, I assumed the conductor had a good reason to stop, and that likely whatever the obstacle was it’d move shortly, and we’d carry on our way. That’s about when I noticed the smoke floating past the window, and the bad smell seeping into the tramcar. ‘Huh,’ I thought to myself ‘that smells like an industrial fire.’ Three cheers for my totally awesome sense of smell. No more than 30 meters or so over my shoulder, there was a car in a parking lot next to the tram line that was on fire. Like on FIRE fire. Like flames coming out the windows and thick smoke all over the place because we’ve had strong winds all week.

"Well... that's new..."
‘Well, that’s new.’
The police had been on scene just long enough to stop tram and pedestrian traffic, they were still working on vehicle traffic out of the parking lot though. The French are very determined drivers when they have somewhere they want to be, after all. So we sat in the tram for about 15 minutes, waiting quietly and watching the firefighters arrive, look at the vehicle from every angle, decide which direction was the best to approach the fire from due to the shifting wind (I think?), etc. etc. Eventually (because everything felt like it was happening very slowly) they did pull out a hose, hook it up, and spray down the car. After they’d done the water thing, they also pulled out chemical extinguishers for the fire under the car. The lady sitting across from me on the tram happily had a conversation with me in which I learned a whole bunch of new vocabulary. Pompier (firefighter), extinctuer (fire extinguisher), mousse (the chemicals in the extinguisher, or foam) and chimique (chemical) are all part of my repertoire now.
… I do have to admit though, I am a lookie-lou. You see, my boyfriend is a paramedic, and they have a special word for people who stand around and just watch when there is an emergency response to something. These people are lookie-lous, and they are annoying, and have nothing better to do with their time then stand around and get in the way of the emergency responders. In my defense, I was stuck in a tram for 15 minutes, and about 4 minutes in I thought to myself, ‘Well I’m here, stuck in the tram, might as well take a video.’ So if you’d like, you too can be a lookie-lou, and see French firefighters put out a car fire! Exciting, I know hahaha!

Hm, ok, that didn't work. I'll see if I can't get it working tomorrow. 
Once the fire was out, and the car was basically just a smoking piece of machinery, the tram conductor let those of us who wanted to leave hop out one of the back doors onto the tracks, and walk to our destinations. Intrepid thing that I am, I decided that I could walk to the Family’s house before they let the trams through, so out I went. I had ulterior motivations as well, I was trying to make it home to a Skype date with my mom, and my only other option was to sit in the tram and keep inhaling nasty car-on-fire smoke for who knew how long.
The walk home was actually fairly nice. It uh… took notably longer than I thought it would, but at least I had a great deal of company. There are many, many people in Montpellier who use the tram everyday, so there were also many who couldn’t wait until the tracks were cleared to get where they needed to be. I made it ¾ of the way home before the tracks were cleared and a tram caught up to me, then rode the tram for the last two stops being as there is a very large hill to climb before the Family’s house. This all took about an hour and a half longer than my normal commute back to the suburbs of Montpellier. Getting home about 2 hours later than I normally would kind of threw my whole evening out of whack. And by ‘kind of’ I mean ‘did’. Luckily, I still got most of my homework done, caught up with my mom, and made it to the kitchen table just in time for dinner. That’s about all I did last night, other than sleep, which is why there wasn’t a post yesterday.

Walking home along the tram line.
I’ve been hunting around in the newspapers here since then, trying to figure out why the car was on fire, and haven’t found anything solid. There is definitely a military and police presence in the town due to increased security, but no one seems to know whether this was something as extreme as a legitimate attack, as benign as some youth thinking it was a good idea to light a car on fire, or some bizarre accident. Cars randomly catch fire in France all the time, right? Politically, things are a little all over the place right now. On the international side the French currently have military forces in Mali, which means there is a higher predicted risk of retaliatory terrorist activity at home because Mali isn’t that far away. I’m told this is why there is a military presence here in Montpellier, given that it’s on the south coast (the border closest to Africa). Domestically, there is a vote on whether or not to allow gay marriage (which I actually think just passed, if I understood the newscast correctly) that has caused big protests in the major cities (so not here) and is a big deal (France is a very Catholic country). There are also many Roma and homeless in the town right now, so those three factors explain the heavier police presence.
Realistically, the car-on-fire could be related to any of those things, or not related to any of them and just a coincidence. Either way, I don't feel at unsafe in Montpellier, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted. 
On that note, there will still be a regular post tomorrow, and barring anymore things catching fire I’ll be back on track with a normal schedule. See you then!

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